Writing a Synopsis When You Don’t Even Have a Book

Afternoon, squiders. The big, mobile one has ANOTHER virtual school day today. I am considering strangling whomever decided that making a parent stay home and teach their child instead of doing a delayed start like EVERY OTHER SCHOOL IN THE DISTRICT was a good idea.

But anyway.

You guys know I’m working through a writing class right now. Well, it’s billed as a “career class,” to also talk about building a writing career and marketing and so forth. And on I go, through the lessons, because I do think it’s beneficial to try everything at least once, because you never know how it’s going to go and what’s going to work for you.

My current lesson is about writing submission material–queries, synopses, etc.–before you have a book. Her (the teacher’s) point is that sometimes you’ve got to sell a book you haven’t written, so knowing how to write these before the book is done (or even started, in some cases) can be beneficial, especially if you’ve already sold a book or two and have editors/publishers who trust you and your work..

It’s an interesting process. A few lessons back we were supposed to outline our stories, but I had a really hard time with the method she wanted us to use (and ended up using a different one after I tried and tried to get the other one to work), and the lesson after we were supposed to start the story. So right now we’re sitting with an opening and a vague (or more detailed, depending on the type of outline we made, since it was open to how many plot points you wanted to do) outline and working on these submission documents.

(My synopsis has issues. But then, they do when the book is written too, so, whatever, I guess.)

I’ve heard authors recommend doing this before writing the book before, but not as a submission/selling too–as a writing tool. The idea is, by having to figure out the core conflict/theme of your story and the main plotline necessary for queries/synopses, that you do yourself a favor by knowing that information before you ever write a word on the page. That it helps you focus on what’s important and makes your story more coherent.

And maybe it will. It will be interesting to see. A side benefit of the experiment, if you will.

In other news, the nonfiction books are going well (though I realized I forgot a section in the common writing mistakes one and had to go back and write it). I’m working on the consistency one now, and also considering putting together a workbook for it. This book is the shortest of all of them, for whatever reason, but it looks like I left more sections post-blog to write than I did with the others, so that may be why.

Happy Thursday, squiders! I’m reading Once & Future right now, which came out last month, and am enjoying it greatly. It’s not a great work of literature, but it is fun, and sometimes it feels like everything takes itself so seriously these days. Are reading anything fun?

Finally Moving

Hooray for April, squiders. The consignment sale is over, the festival is this weekend (and will happen whether or not I do anything specific), and we can focus on being as productive as possible in these last few weeks before it’s summer break.

Some things that are happening:

  • I finally finished the story idea workbook of doom, and I edited the entirety of the outlining nonfiction book, including writing a few new sections.
  • I outlined a new Landsquid picture book and fleshed out more on a second children’s book series (though I’m unsure whether to do it as a picture book or an early reader).
  • I started writing a new novel. I have also realized that said opening scene is bad and have plotted out a new one that is MUCH better, but that’s pretty standard for beginnings.
  • I got through three lessons in my writing class.
  • I’ve outlined a potential class for Skillshare and now need to look at how I want to film/edit it.
  • (WordPress won’t let me get rid of this bullet, so please disregard this aside.)

All in all, not too shabby. But, of course, there’s always more to be done. WriYe is actually proving to be a bit of a distraction here, because I have the three main things I’m focusing on–nonfiction/workbooks/now Skillshare classes, Landsquid picture book(s), and writing class–and some of the monthly challenges are VERY tempting.

For April, for example, the genre stretch sounds awesome–a mix of a college setting with slipstream elements. I definitely want to write something for that. And there’s the addition of a challenge to brush off and improve a project that you’ve abandoned.

The last thing I need is to go into a major revision process. I’ve done so much revision lately that I’m a bit burnt out on the whole thing. But…I think this actually predates the blog…I had a younger YA story I adored. I polished it, I queried it, I entered it in contests–and it never went anywhere, and eventually I shelved it and moved on to other projects. But I still think about it sometimes, and maybe…maybe I could do it justice now? Maybe I could fix it and it could go out into the world?

God, it is tempting. But, goals! And previous commitments!

So I’ve made an agreement with myself. If I get the nonfiction books edited (and any additional workbooks/journals created), then I can read through this YA story. No pressure to revise it or anything. Just read it, see what state it’s in, and see how much work it would take to fix, if it’s fixable. Maybe look at the comments I got from various agents and contests to see what other people saw as problems.

So we’ll see. There’s still 5 more nonfiction books and at least 1 workbook, and April isn’t a very long month.

How is your April going, squider?

Patreon Rights Grab?

I got a disturbing email from one of the other authors I follow, Holly Lisle, this morning, concerning Patreon.

We all know Patreon, right? It gives people the ability to give some amount of money to creators (musicians, artists, writers, etc.) they like to help them continue to be able to make creative content. I made a page myself some time ago, though I have been very bad at it.

So Holly, in her email, said she was cancelling her Patreon because of some troubling wording in the Terms of Use.

The wording is:

“By posting content to Patreon you grant us a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, reproduce, distribute, perform, publicly display or prepare derivative works of your content. The purpose of this license is to allow us to operate Patreon, promote Patreon and promote your content on Patreon. We are not trying to steal your content or use it in an exploitative way.”

While Patreon says in other places that 100% of your content is owned by you, and it doesn’t use it, the fact that this wording exists (and there’s no way for a creator to take permission away from Patreon if they change their minds in the future) is problematic.

There’s more on this here.

I do have some questions. How long has this wording been there? Is it as bad as it sounds? I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV.

But I did think I would cancel my page until I had a better idea of what this means, and it turns out that it’s not live anyway. Har. Apparently I went to edit it at some point and did not publish the changes, and so it’s just sitting in some weird limbo.

(Good job, Kit.)

But, anyway, I thought I’d put this out there, in case other people have Patreons and would also like to think about what this means for them.

Aside from that, I hope everyone is having a pretty good Thursday.

WriYe and Writing

New month, squiders, new blog circle questions over at WriYe.

Why did you start writing?

That is quite the question, if you think about it too hard. What do we count as “writing” in this case? Do we count the very first project I wrote back when I was eight? Do we count my fake atlases of made-up places, or the stories I made up for my cousins and I to role-play?

Or do we count with my grown-up writing, when I decided this was something I wanted to make a priority, that I wanted to improve my craft and perhaps put some stories out for people aside from close friends and family to see?

I wrote as a child because I wanted to copy my mother, because I had games and shows and movies that I loved and wanted more stories from, and since they didn’t exist I had to make them up myself. As an adult, I write because I love stories, and I like to see where they go. There is something very satisfying about coming up with a place and characters and getting them through to an ending.

But as to why I started writing–I can’t recall. Storytelling has always been something I did, though writing was just one avenue until I became an adult and it became harder to get people to play pretend with me. And now it’s so tied to my vision of myself I don’t know what I’d do if I stopped. Tell stories some other way, I guess, maybe through pictures or games.

Bonus:
How has your writing improved since you first started? What would you still like to improve?

I hope I’ve improved in ALL ways since I started (with the Seven Special Princesses when I was 8). I know I’m still not fantastic at tension, and I always have to remember to add in description (so it usually goes in in revision, ah well). But I think there’s always room for improvement, that you can always be a better writer, no matter where you are in your writing journey.

(That being said, I also think there’s some good, even if you’re just starting out. While many of my early projects are pretty cringeworthy, there are some good ideas in there.)

Happy April, squiders! It’s starting to really, truly feel like spring. Got big plans?

Landsquid Picture Book Progress

Seasons are weird, aren’t they, squiders? Sometimes they make no sense, like when it’s October and 80 degrees and could be summer except the leaves have turned, or when it snows in June.

But spring has come in right on schedule. The weather changed. The flowers came up. The birds came back. All literally starting on the equinox. It’s kind of freaking me out.

I am not being productive, which is a combination of all the not-writing things I need to do and the fact that I want to write, so consequently nothing at all is getting done. But I did force myself to walk to the open space this morning (there’s a convenient picnic table not too far in) to do some drawing on the landsquid picture book I’ve been very slowly working on. (My spouse pointed out that we’d outlined it last summer. Har.)

(Have not called the medical people or done anything for the consignment sale, aside from looking at the facebook page.)

I came to the realization earlier that I was actually sabotaging myself by doing picture book publication research. First of all, it was taking time away from working on the story itself, and second of all, it’s a bit premature. Why do we care about publishing when we don’t have anything to publish?

(The Childrens’ Market book thus far has not been extremely valuable. I have not learned anything I did not already know.)

I think the idea was that I didn’t quite know what I needed to publish a picture book, when we got to that point, and that I didn’t want to be missing something. But I really should just leave it alone for a bit.

So I’m currently working on what I guess is called a “dummy,” which is essentially a sketched-out version of the book. My process thus far has gone like this:

  • Outline the book (basic phase outline using bullet points, one of my favorites)
  • Do length research (I went through a bunch of the small, mobile ones’ picture books and looked at how long they were, and how many pages were sundries–title page, dedication, copyright, etc.–versus story pages. Almost every book I looked at was 32 pages long, with somewhere between 2 and 4 pages being sundries, with most of the stories being 28 pages long)
  • Write a first draft by pages (Example: 1. On a bright, sunny day, Landsquid invited his friends to a picnic in the woods.)
  • Create a dummy (draw and write out story in a non-polished manner, in this case, in an old lined college notebook using a pencil)

I guess the dummy is not traditionally something that is done–that you submit the words to a publisher and then they or their chosen illustrator do the page layout–but I’m finding it’s helping immensely for story flow and plot progression. A lot of the first draft pages are more stage directions than words, and that’s changing as I work through the dummy.

Whatever, this is a learning process, and everyone has to find the process that works for them anyway.

And if nothing else comes of this, it was nice and relaxing to sit in the open space and draw, even if it was windy.

Page 13 of the dummy

Trials and Tribulations

March has not been the most productive month around here. We’ve had the car accident, spring break, and now other responsibilities are creeping in.

Here’s what I’ve done the last several days instead of writing:

  • I went to a several hour long meeting for a local Scottish festival, of which I am a council member and also in charge of the FB page and setting up an email list (and then I sent emails and messages and updated things accordingly)
  • (The festival is in two and a half weeks, so)
  • There’s a big children’s consignment sale twice a year at which I am very slowly offloading things the small, mobile ones have gotten too big for. It is in a week. I am not as far along in being ready as I should be due to surgery, car accidents, etc.
  • (I have run out of hangers so that is an issue, but luckily one that is easily fixed.)
  • It is the Scholastic Book Fair at the bigger, mobile one’s school, and I am volunteering, both because I am behind on my volunteer hours for the year (we’re supposed to do 30 hours, ahahahaha) and because I love both books and book fairs.
  • (I spent $35 on books while there yesterday, but in my defense only one is for me.)
  • (It is City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab.)
  • We did go on an overnight trip for spring break to a new, local, giant resort hotel that’s running a special deal for locals. That was nice.
  • I went to a webinar yesterday about creating classes on Skillshare. I had this revelation last week that it didn’t make sense to have a nonfiction series that wasn’t driving people to something, and I’m not sure if I mentioned that I wanted to get out of freelance editing (it takes up the brain power I need to work on my own stuff), but it doesn’t make sense to drive people there if I’m phasing that out. (The self-publishing coaching and book formatting aspects are fine. Ugh, I probably need to change my URL or something.) The Skillshare webinar came to my attention immediately after having this revelation, so there may be something to that.
  • (That being said, if you were going to take a class on a particular aspect of writing, what would it be?)

Plus we’re hosting a den meeting at the house tonight so I have to clean everything, bleeeehhhhh.

I think I’m just going to have to accept that my March goals are going to remain sadly unfinished and just roll the lot of them over into April. I can probably manage a few things around festival/book fair/consignment selling, though:

  • I would like to at least finish Lesson 9 of my writing class. That will give me an outline for the story I’m working on there, which means there SHOULD be writing in the near future, and I’m always up for writing.
  • I would like to finish the Story Ideas workbook (currently 24 pages long), the freebie to go along with it, and edit the common writing mistakes book. That might not all get done–I need to finish the story ideas before going on to the next book, and the workbook is taking longer than expected, though I hope once I get through the individual exercises that it will move faster.
  • maaaaaybe a drabble of some sort? WriYe is having a WriDay on Friday, but the lowest word count section is 2500 words, and my drabbles only run ~1000. (I don’t think it can go much longer and still be a drabble, honestly.) If I’m on to revising the next nonfic book, it might be doable, because I’m adding new sections as I work on those.
  • Finish the complete draft (with drawings) of the first Landsquid picture book and continue my research into the wild world of children book publishing. I’ve gotten the 2019 Childrens’ Market out of my library, which I am very slowly making it through.
  • Finish reading 1, but preferably 2 (or maybe 3!) books.

How’s your March going, Squiders?

The Road is Long…

You’ve been traveling all day. The road is dusty, and long, and it’s been hours since you’ve seen another soul. It’s getting late, and the thought of sleeping on the ground and potentially getting eaten by wolves is unappealing.

Finally, up ahead, you spy a man with a cart. It’s old and lists to one side, but this is a good sign. Surely he’s coming from somewhere. You hail him, and he raises a hand in return, seeming friendly enough.

“Is the a town up ahead?” you ask once you’re close enough.

“Aye,” says the farmer.

“One with an inn?” you ask, scarcely daring to hope. You’d give anything for a roof over your head. More for a warm, dry bed.

“Aye,” says the farmer again. “Not far now.”

Then he is gone, and you forge ahead, dreams of warmth and fire and food vivid in your mind.

Still, the day drags on, and your hope fades. The sun continues its descent, and there is still nothing. But then, finally, there is a break in the trees, and the outline of buildings against the red sky. So close now. You stumble into town, asking directions of a small child gathering water at the well. Following his directions, the building in question arises out of the dark, like a lover, welcoming and open. Your savior, your place of refuge…

So the small, mobile ones are on spring break (which, with the snow days last week, means I’m going a bit mad) and we’re up to our normal shenanigans. This week we’re making a town out of toilet paper rolls I’ve been hoarding. (Though the dog has gotten a few. She loves to eat them, Landsquid knows why.)

The town keeps relocating so it’s kind of an adventure as to where you’re going to find it next.

(All the buildings have lobsters on the roofs because the small, mobile ones were overjoyed by the idea.)

We also celebrated the first day of spring by planting flowers in a pink dinosaur, as you do.

(Note the snow on the ground outside. The littler, mobile one is confused why there is still snow if it is now spring.)

Been up to anything fun lately, squiders? Ideas for our growing town?

Workbooks and Journals, Oh My

So! It turns out that said journal class I had? Not a class so much as a collection of demos of how to make journals. Ah, well.

And also, the whole thing is kind of obvious in retrospect. There are some good pointers and tips, certainly. But the class is for making journals in Canva (I love Canva, I like to make book covers in it, though sometimes they prove too complicated–To Rule the Stars was made in Canva, for example, but Love Shines Through had to be done in Photoshop) and Canva has changed how it works over the past two years (madness, she says sarcastically) so the actual physical journal making isn’t as helpful as perhaps it would have been.

That said, I’m 14 pages into the first workbook (each section has different exercises, so it’s kind of slow going) and made an entire 98-page journal in about an hour this morning.

Title Page of the Workbook in Canva

Kind of fun. A little aggravating. I just realized one of the fonts I’m using I also used on the To Rule the Stars cover so that’s a bit funny. (It’s a nice font, though, so I’m not sorry.)

I’m not making amazing progress on anything (I got T-boned by a car running a red light last Friday, so a thoroughly-annoying amount of my time has been dedicated to that).

(Everyone is okay.)

But I am done with the major revision on the first nonfic book. And assuming it doesn’t spawn any more companion books (the journal came out of nowhere when I was doing my final organization of the book and workbook, as did a freebie that I still need to make), the workbook should be done by the end of the week. And then it’s on to Common Writing Mistakes (no companion books, hopefully), and then Outlining (probably not a companion book?), which should go a little faster.

How are you today, squiders?

WriYe and Editing

First of all, fantastic news, squiders! They found my journal/workbook class for me! Hallelujah! Words can describe how happy I am about this development. (Now to get on it.)

It’s editing month at WriYe (probably to line up with NaNoEdMo–National Novel Editing Month–is that still a thing? I’ve been in the online monthly challenge community for so long I can’t keep track anymore.) and so this month’s blog circle questions have to do with that.

(While, technically, revision is the process of changing story elements–writing new scenes, removing old ones, changing character arcs, etc.–and editing is technically stuff like fixing punctuation, grammar, and the fact that the character’s eye color went from hazel to brown on page 15, we’re going to follow general convention and equate editing to “the act of changing a story, hopefully for the better.”)

Describe your editing process. What is your biggest challenge in editing? 

I think I’ve talked about my editing process in great detail before here on the blog, but if I haven’t, essentially I do several months of analytical work, looking at plot and character arcs, which scenes are essential and which are not working, if there’s characters that should be removed or combined, if there’s confusing parts or if a prop comes out of nowhere or if some aspect of worldbuilding is falling apart.

And THEN I outline the story, put each scene on a color-coded note card, and start the revision/rewriting process.

That typically gets rid of the major issues, and if the story still needs some work, it’s mostly minor things.

Bonus:
Tell us about your ideal critique partner. What do you look for in a critique partner?

Ha! If we’re going for ideal, someone who reads the chapter/story quickly, who points out things that are good along with the things that are bad, and someone who can look at a chapter as part of a larger story and make insightful comments on character and story arcs. Oh, and someone who is into your writing and loves to get it.

But I’ll take what I can get. If I get feedback eventually and it’s at all insightful, I consider it a win. 😛

Happy Thursday, squiders! I hope you didn’t get bomb cycloned yesterday like I did. (But all the trees are still upright and we didn’t go without power overnight, so it wasn’t terrible.)

Announcing Love Shines Through

Hooray! It took a ton of work, but Love Shines Through: A Fractured World Anthology is now available!

Love Shines Through cover

Here’s the blurb:

The world was whole before the war.

But war is a terrible thing, and terrible things are done in the name of defense and protection. And this war tore the world apart, fractured it, separated families and lives and dreams. The reasons why no longer matter, but the effects still linger. They cause pain, though the war is over.

But despite the monsters and the poisons and the despair, there is a glimmer of light. And hope and love are not gone from the world.

These four stories, set in the Fractured World, explore how light can make it through the darkness. How hope can conquer fear. And most of all, how love can still flourish, even when the world is bleak.

A young woman braves monsters to see the sky.
A reluctant man chooses forgiveness over suffering.
Lovers reunite to save a child and their community.
Best friends risk everything for each other.

Come see the light for yourselves.

I’m so glad to see this done and out! Love Shines Through is available through Amazon in paperback or ebook form, or in your favorite format through Smashwords (and hopefully soon through your favorite ebook distributor).

I had a great time writing my story for this anthology–it was fun looking at Briony’s ancestors and thinking about what could have led them to the point they’re at in City of Hope and Ruin. (Oh yeah, this anthology takes place about 400 years ahead of CoHaR.) And I’m glad to see it come to fruition. The Fractured World was always supposed to be a shared world, so it was great to have some new authors write in it.

I hope you guys have a chance to check it out!

Books by Kit Campbell

City of Hope and Ruin cover
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Shards cover
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Hidden Worlds cover
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